Cleaning Up After the Ex

Forget spring cleaning. Ex-significant other cleaning is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done after a breakup. Here’s the how of washing that man (or woman) right out of your hair.

Start with the bed. You are probably depressed, and let me tell you, cleaning the bed where y’all fucked is therapy. Clean everything, the mattress pad, the sheets, the comforter, the pillow slips, and even the pillows. All of that stuff can go in the wash. For anything down or delicate, just wash it on cold in the gentle cycle. When you dry it, be careful with down, because if you get it too hot, it’ll start to stink. Just dry any down stuff gently with a few clean tennis balls (yes, they work!) then let it air dry the rest of the way.

If you have money (and sometimes even if you don’t), throw out the old sheets and buy new ones. After a break-up with a live-in boyfriend, I bought a new duvet cover. Worked wonders for my mental health.

Open the windows. Even it’s the dead of winter, for goodness sake, get a fresh breeze going, even if you can only get it going for ten minutes. Getting rid of any lingering stench from you-know-who is essential.

While the bedding is being washed of every last scent of your awful ex, grab a swiffer thing and dust. Dust everything. Then go through and wipe it all down with a damp cloth. That jackass’ skin cells should not be bothering you.

Next, vacuum and sweep. Pull out the couch and vacuum behind it. Pull back that chair that you never get under and vacuum there. Get all the crap out from under the bed and pass the attachments under it. If you can move the bed to vacuum, better still. Vacuum the couch cushions and in the nooks and crannies. Find a quarter? Pretend it’s theirs and act like you just got mild revenge.

Done that? Good. Now get a bucket. Fill it with 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water (just eyeball it; vinegar won’t hurt you). Clean the floors. If I’m really in a foul mood, I do it on my hands and knees because the act of scrubbing Cinderella-style makes me feel good.

I’m choosing vinegar here both because it represents your new sour attitude toward life, and also because it deodorizes. Those chemically cleaners will just cover up that asshole’s cologne or perfume. Vinegar will make your home smell neutral, if briefly like a salad.

After the floors are clean of any mud that jerk tracked in, take some of that vinegar water and clean the baseboards. You never do that anyway, but you should. Wash those motherfuckers.

Clean your bathroom last. It’s probably the least reminding of them anyway, but you don’t want their literal shit all over the place. Before you throw out their toothbrush, use it to clean in the little gross spots around the faucet (you know what I’m talking about). Bleach the hell out of the tub and shower. Scrub the toilet like never before.

By now your bedding should be done. The comforter may still be air-drying, but that’s okay. Make the bed. Pop in your favorite movie. Your home is now yours again.

By [E] Sally Lawton

My food groups are cheese, bacon, and hot tea. I like studying cities and playing with my cat, Buffy.

6 replies on “Cleaning Up After the Ex”

You forgot about all the shit they left behind. Some of which they might want to come back for. I burned. it. all. Gone. It was very cathartic (although possibly not that environmentally friendly) to watch all those unneccessary reminders go up in flames.

I’ve stripped the bed.
Shaken the sheets and slumped
those fat pillows like tired tongues
out the window for air and sun
to get to. I’ve let

the mattress lounge in
its blue-striped dressing gown.
I’ve punched and fluffed.
All morning. I’ve billowed and snapped.
Said my prayers to la Virgen de la Soledad
and now I can sit down
to my typewrite and cup
because she has answered me.

Coffee’s good.
Dust motes somersault and spin.
House clean.
I’m alone again.
“A Man in My Bed Like Cracker Crumbs”
Sandra Cisneros in “Loose Woman”

My favorite break-up poem.

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